Friday, September 30, 2011

Queen Alexandra Home (former), Coorparoo

In 1937, Queensland governor Sir Leslie Wilson officially opened the Queen Alexandra Home for Children at Coorparoo. He is pictured here unveiling the memorial plaque at the front entrance to the Home.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #106392)

The building was first constructed in 1886 as a residence for Reuben Nicklin, the Brisbane manager of Butler Bros, a saddlery firm. It was called "Hatherton", designed by John Hall and Sons and built by Abraham James. In 1890, Nicklin and his wife were on their way to England on the ship RMS Quetta, which ran aground near Thursday Island off the coast of North Queensland. The Nicklins, grandparents of later State Premier Sir Frank Nicklin, perished in this disaster. Hatherton remained in the Nicklin family until 1911, when it was acquired by the Methodist church. Staff and children were transferred from the former facility at Indooroopilly to Coorparoo in December 1911. Below is a photograph of Matron and her charges from 1913, followed by an early picture of the building.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #187118)

 (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #200443)

A new wing was added to the Home in 1919, and in WWII it was used as an education venue for pupils from Somerville House. The children's home facility was terminated in 1960, and the building was acquired by the state government. It was then known as Alexandra House, and was a domestic science facility. Later, the building became known as the College of Catering and Hospitality Services, and after that COTAH (College of Tourism and Hospitality).
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Here is the building today. It is now a community centre, although there is a conspicuous lack of information at the location itself. It looks to be in good nick though.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rowes Building

Not too long ago we looked at the Rothwells Building in the city. The building we see today stands next to the Rothwells Building and was constructed at the same time by the same builder. Here is a photograph of the two buildings together, and their similar heritage can readily be noticed. The building on the right, the Rowes Building, was destined to become one of the best-known and busiest in the city.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The Rowes Building was constructed in 1885 for Thomas MacDonald-Paterson, a solicitor and member of parliament. It is a five-storey masonry building with a basement. MacDonald-Paterson used the ground floor as his offices and leased those above for offices or warehousing.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

In 1903 William Effy leased the basement, ground floor and first floor balcony of the building and his mother, Minna Rowe, moved her successful Rowes Cafe from its former Queen St address into these new premises. By 1909, the ground floor dining room had capacity to seat 380 customers, and it must have succeeded in attracting large numbers of diners because Effy was able to buy the building in 1914. The cafe hosted morning teas, lunches, dinners and private functions, and for more than sixty years was an icon in Brisbane hospitality. Here is a photograph that shows both the cafe and the dining room, and below that, one of its special dinner plates, custom made in England for the cafe. (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #120400)


Further expansion occurred in 1925 when well-known architects Hall and Prentice were engaged to refurbish the building to the tune of £162,000. A ballroom was constructed over the basement garage, providing another arm of entertainment for the establishment.

In 1958, the building was converted into a shopping arcade and ownership was transferred to National Mutual. This building and its mate, the Rothwells Building, were given a major facelift in 1984, and both buildings are listed on the State Heritage Register. These days it is called Rowes Arcade - it links Edward St to both Queen St and Adelaide St, and it has a huge food court under Post Office Square that is a haven for city workers.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

St Luke's Anglican, City (former)

Elsewhere in these pages I have pondered on the future of church buildings in the light of falling attendances and the trend towards secular lifestyles. Although the reasons for deconsecrating churches might be different in these times, the act of getting rid of these buildings is not new. Take, for example, this building situated right in the middle of Brisbane's CBD. It is now a 24/7 restaurant known as Pancake Manor, but it was formerly an Anglican church.(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

JS Murdoch, who had collaborated with RS Dods on Webber House (also for the Anglican community), designed this Romanesque Revival-style church and it was constructed in 1904. The building with its steep roof is in the foreground of this photograph of Brisbane from 1924.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-065-01-0020)

In fact, this building had several concurrent lives as a church. Not only was it purpose-built as a mission church to provide support for the poor and homeless, it also acted as the Anglican Cathedral between the demolition in 1904 of St John's Pro Cathedral in Queens Park and the opening of St John's Cathedral in Ann St in 1910. Additionally it was also used as the place of worship for the members of Brisbane's Greek Orthodox community until their own church was completed. The following image from around 1926 shows Greek Orthodox worshippers outside St Luke's.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #62015)

The Greek community eventually built their own church in Charlotte St. It was completed in 1929, and must have been a beautiful building. It no longer exists, and the Greek Orthodox congregation has moved across the river to South Brisbane, but this is what their Charlotte St church looked like in 1955.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #202766)

St Luke's was also very involved in the community during war time, providing a venue for dances and Sunday teas for soldiers. It remained an active church until 1977 when it was no longer needed by the Anglicans, and in 1979 it was converted to a restaurant.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

West Burleigh and Tallebudgera

As white settlers started to pour into the new colonies of New South Wales and Queensland, one of the earliest industries was timber harvesting, and a great source of cedar and other timbers was the place now known as the Gold Coast Hinterland. The areas of West Burleigh, Tallebudgera and surrounds were quickly inhabited, firstly by timbergetters, then by farmers. In 1878 the Tallebudgera Post Office was opened - it was privately built and owned. The following photo shows it in 1917.

The old building was purchased by the Gold Coast City Council in 2002, and they undertook a restoration project that was completed in 2004. The restored building was officially opened in 2005. Here is a current photograph.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The sign in the left of the image above is enlarged below. It records that Stephen Tobin was the first post master, paid a salary of £12 per annum. Violet Ruddy was the last post mistress when the post office was permanently closed in 1958.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Today the current post office is located next to the West Burleigh General Store, itself an historical building. It was opened by Alf Fletcher in 1935 to serve the inhabitants of the local area. Here is a photo of that building from 1994, and below that is a current picture - you can see the post office to the right of the store.
(Photo: GCCC; Image No LS-LSP-CD109-IMG0111)

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Tourism started to become important to the area after completion of the railway from Brisbane to Southport in 1889. When this line was extended to Tweed Heads in 1901, a station was opened at West Burleigh. That station was only a few hundred metres from the general store, and although (sadly) the railway line closed long ago, the old station house still exists as a private residence. This is it - the awnings over the windows at the side of the building are a clue to its origins.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

And here is the railway station pictured during the years of WW!, with a group of soldiers waiting for the train.
(Photo: GCCC; Image No LS-LSP-CD308-IMG0024)

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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Manor Apartments, Queen St

Many of the grand old buildings that remain in Brisbane's CBD were built by banks or insurance companies. The one we see today was built in 1930-1 by Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society, more commonly referred to as CML. Although CML no longer exists, having been gobbled up in industry rationalisation, the building still stands in Queen St. Here it is, photographed during its construction.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #406756)

The next image shows how successfully the architects, Hennessy and Hennessy, incorporated the style of the building to the existing streetscape. The GPO is on the right of the CML, and on the left is the former National Mutual Life Association (see what I mean?) building, now a Suncorp office.(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #204345)

Almost the whole of this side of Queen St between Edward and Creek Sts was redeveloped between the wars, with AMP and Commonwealth Bank also erecting offices there during this time.

An interesting aspect of the CML Building was the use of Benedict Stone for the building's exterior. Benedict Stone was made in Brisbane by licence from the parent company in the USA that had invented the product. The licence was held by Brisbane's Catholic Archbishop Duhig who at that time was planning to build a new cathedral in Brisbane. That project was later scrapped because funds were scarce.

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

The stone was made from cement and crushed Brisbane tuff quarried at Albion and mixed at the Benedict Stone Works at Newstead, also owned by Duhig. The resultant stone varied in colour from green to pink tones, as can be seen in the photograph above.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #103758)

Above is a photograph of the Benedict Stone building at Light St, Newstead from 1934. CML went on to use this stone in other offices around Australia. (Photo:

One of the features of the Brisbane building is the large number of gargoyles present around the top of the building and also on the facade (see photo above). In 1983, the building was purchased by Queensland Newspapers. They did some restoration work and called it Newspaper House, but more recently the building has emerged as The Manor Apartments, a serviced accommodation facility.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Nundah

Former Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, James Duhig, is no stranger to these pages. That's because many of the impressive churches that he had built on hilltops around Brisbane are such landmarks. Duhig loved property, and he loved building churches. Here is one that he had constructed at Nundah in 1925-6 - Corpus Christi.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Corpus Christi Nundah was constructed by SS Carrick to a design by Hennessy, Hennessy, Keesing & Co for £16,840, and it was officially opened in November 1926. Duhig and the architects had a mutually beneficial relationship, completing many projects together, with Jack Hennessy being a personal friend of the archbishop's.

Duhig's property interests included a quarry at Albion and the Australian licence to make the Benedict stone that, although not used at Corpus Christi, was used by Hennessy and Hennessy throughout the country. Thus the archbishop and the architect were colleagues even on non-catholic projects. Architectural historian Miles Lewis describes it this way:

In Brisbane the Roman Catholic Archbishop, James Duhig, was planning the construction of his Cathedral of the Holy Name, to the design of the Sydney architects Hennessy & Hennessy. Jack Hennessy prevailed upon Duhig to sign a contract with a company, Concrete Constructions Ltd [CCL], which had an interest in Benedict Stone. Duhig had seen the material in the United States in 1926, notably at Soldier Field, and after some initial reluctance he became a convert. Hennessy sent the engineer A S MacDonald to America to investigate the process, and MacDonald came back with a recommendation that Duhig establish a Queensland company to obtain the licence and to make Benedict Stone locally. This was done upon the basis that Duhig or his nominee would provide the capital for the factory, and would pay 5.4 pence per cubic foot in royalties to the parent company. Works were established in Light Street, and were opened by the Governor on 9 August 1929. The American company sent out an engineer, William Jackson Brown of Baltimore, to manage the plant. But by the time the first block of Benedict stone was laid, late in 1929, both Duhig and CCL were under stress, and the ultimate result was that the Cathedral project foundered.
Benedict Stone continued to be manufactured in Brisbane, where it was used for the Shell Building, and the Tattersall’s Club extension of 1939. Australia-wide it was used especially in the various offices of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Co designed by Hennessy & Co. "

Many say that the strikingly domed Corpus Christi church at Nundah was to be a model for the proposed cathedral.
(Photo: DSEWPaC & J Houldsworth; rt51334)

Both Corpus Christi and the plans for the proposed cathedral included a dome, which was thought to be a homage to St Peter's in Rome.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Holman St Ferry Terminal, Kangaroo Point

A number of ferries operated across the Brisbane River before the arrival of the first Victoria Bridge in 1865 and then the Grey St and Story Bridges in the 1930s. The second Kangaroo Point ferry commenced operation circa 1845 with a horse-drawn punt traversing the river to Holman Street. Around 1919 a terminal was constructed for a cost of £34 to provide shelter for ferry passengers at that river crossing, and here it is. 

The old terminal did not escape the terrible 2011 floods. Here is a picture of it well under water last January. The river is on the far side of the terminal - all the water in the foreground is floodwater.

(Photo: © J Huang; State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #27858-0001-0061)

The rain finally stopped and the flood retreated, and Queenslanders set about cleaning up. Arguments about insurance claims and criticism of how long it took to send the millions of dollars worth of donations to the needy continue still. Many have not been able to return to their houses, and many more are living in unrepaired houses.

The fate of a little ferry terminal seems insignificant in comparison, but at least it is still with us and still in service to the people of Brisbane. I used it the other day - here it is, fully recovered.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sunnyside, Kangaroo Point

Brisbane's first suburb was Kangaroo Point, across the river from Brisbane Town. It rivalled South Brisbane, firstly for industry and then for residential sites. One of the early real estate investors was a Sydney man, Joseph Thompson, who held considerable assets in the area, including the semi-detached Silverwells. Next to Silverwells, Thompson had the house pictured below constructed. He called it Sunnyside.
(Photo: DERM)

The house was built in the mid-1890s overlooking the river with direct views to the city. Thompson was an investor rather than a resident, and the land between the house and the river was leased to the shipping firm AUSN who built workshops there, within easy reach of their office in Mary St in Brisbane. 

One of the tenants was Charles Foster of the ironmongery firm, Foster and Foster. He moved to Sunnyside from his former residence Shafston House, which he still owned.

Upon the death of Joseph Thompson in 1902, the property was left to his son, who sold it in 1920 to a Fortitude Valley dentist, Robert Wright, and it remained in the Wright family for many years afterwards. I photographed it recently, and this is the way it looked, apparently after having had a makeover. (Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Avalon, New Farm

Not all older buildings are historical showpieces for the wealthy, and neither should they be. Here is a building that was constructed in 1929 that was built for the well-to-do but then provided cheap accommodation for the not-so-well off.(Photo:; Painting by Leslie Edwards, 2004)

"Avalon is an apartment building located at the crossroads of sleaze and affluence in Brisbane."

This is a quote from a book I discovered at my local library. The book is "Avalon: Art & Life of an Apartment Building", and the Avalon referred to is a block of flats in New Farm. The book was edited by Ricardo Felipe, himself an Avalon resident, and it is a collection of characters, stories and photographs of the flats. Many of the recent residents have been artists, and this web page gives an insight into the book and the exhibition that accompanied its launch a few years back. The book is an veritable treasure trove! The building was constructed with absolute luxury in mind, and has progressed through bohemian, sleazy, illegal and artistic incarnations since then.

Architect Robert Riddel lived opposite Avalon in his house La Scala for fifteen years. He describes the building as "an ambitious development" - it has 26 small flats (named alphabetically from A to Z), each about 40 sq m, and was probably the largest apartment building in Brisbane until the construction of Torbreck in the 1960s. After a fire that destroyed a boarding house and other dwellings, Avalon was constructed to a design by the architects of the city hall, Hall and Prentice. All flats have one bedroom with a kitchen and terrazzo-tiled bathroom, and a lounge area separated by a wall or curtains. The ceilings are of ornate plaster, the internal structure is Oregon and Silky Oak, and the internal walls are rendered brick. There is a long corridor down the centre of each of the two levels that is a full 6 feet (183 cm) wide.(Photo:

The site of the complex has been one of the most notorious spots in Brisbane. For many years the corner served as a drive-by prostitute pick-up place, and for a time there was a meth lab in Avalon itself. A couple of murders eventuated from the sordid streetwalker activity, but the place has largely been cleaned up in recent times.

The venerable building remains. Now a little run-down, with the ground floor shops being a burger bar and a laundromat, some elements of its inter-war style can still be seen. Conspicuously standing on a corner at the intersection where Fortitude Valley becomes New Farm, it has for years fascinated passengers who have passed by
in trams, buses or cars. And, as evidenced by Felipe's book, many are the stories it could tell!(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.

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